Unraveling the interplay of Omicron, reinfections and Long COVID

After her second covid-19 infection, Tee Hundley, a Jersey City, New Jersey, salon owner, says her lungs seemed damaged: “I felt like I was breathing through a straw.” More than a year later, the tightness in her chest remains. “I feel like that’s something that will always be left over,” Hundley says. “You may not feel terrible, but inside of your body there is a war going on.” (Jackie Molloy for Kaiser Health News)

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The latest COVID-19 surge, caused by a shifting mix of quickly evolving omicron subvariants, appears to be waning, with cases and hospitalizations beginning to fall.

Like past COVID waves, this one will leave a lingering imprint in the form of long COVID, an ill-defined catchall term for a set of symptoms that can include debilitating fatigue, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and brain fog.

Although omicron infections are proving milder overall than those caused by last summer’s delta variant, omicron has also proved capable of triggering long-term symptoms and organ damage. But whether omicron causes long COVID symptoms as often — and as severe — as previous variants is a matter of heated study.

Michael Osterholm, director

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